by Tracy Chevalier
I had no idea what to expect when I picked this book up. It’s predecessor, Girl With A Pearl Earring has been on my to-read list for ages, and I finally decided to pick it up. Except that it was out at the library, so instead I grabbed The Lady and The Unicorn by the same author.
When it first opened, I wasn’t sure if I should continue reading. We meet Nicolas des Innocents, a painter, who has been asked to the home of Jean Le Viste to be commissioned for a painting. And not just any painting, paintings that will surround an entire room in the form of tapestries. While at the home of Jean Le Viste we find that Nicolas has a robust appetite for women. Hence my hesitation. We see a servant girl who is round with his child, and then we meet the eldest daughter of Le Viste, and Nicolas’s appetite is awakened further. A union between Nicolas and the young lady Claude is not to be, as they are from different circles of life, and Claude’s future is tied to her father’s desire for a better status for himself. She will go to the man who can further her father the most, and the wiley spirit in her wants so much more.
Nicolas is quickly commisioned to paint the paintings which will become the tapestries, and then he is sent to Belgium, and the home of George De La Chapelle, a weaver with a blind daughter who also is not ready to accept her lot in life. Being blind, she has little chance of finding a husband, and the only man who has offered to take her is a disgusting dyer of wool, who always smells of his craft.
The weaving of these great tapestries is an amazing story itself, all the hard work that went into such work was unbelievable, and in this case, the weavers would be working for over a year on one commission. After I got past the first “love scene” in the book, the rest flowed very smoothly and tied together nicely. Future romance scenes, in fact, blended much better with the story, and actually added to the final outcome. It was just that the first scene was so abrupt and unexpected…it was much better once we had gotten to know some of the characters a little better.
That being said, I did enjoy this novel, but to me, it was missing something. The story of the weaving of these tapestries was amazingh- and beautifully done, but it just seemed too short to me. It was almost as if a whole portion of the story was missing and in the end, some of the loose ends were woven together abruptly to finish it off. That was a shame because Tracy Chevalier has a real gift for beautiful words. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, and would read another by her in a second. My only caveat would be the love scenes. There are two of them in particular, as well as many references throughout the book. So I recommend this book with reservations. The story itself is beautiful and enchanting, and worth the time it took to read it- which for me was an afternoon.